You’ve helped Latifa from North Africa as she’s faced rejection, shame and abuse – now you can write to her.
School is often a place where big decisions are made. This was certainly true from Latifa* from North Africa – but not in the academic sense.
“When I was a student, I was influenced by the Gulf War, which made me identify more with Islam,” Latifa recalls. “I decided to wear a veil. I considered Islam as everything to me.”
Despite growing up in a Muslim home, Latifa’s decision was not universally welcomed by her parents. Her mother, who comes from a strongly Islamic background, was delighted. But her father, although nominally Muslim, was angry. “He used to tell me about contradictions in Islam,” she says.
To prove him wrong, Latifa studied Islam and even attended Quranic schools. But the more she learned, the more she doubted. She returned to a nominal belief in Islam while keeping an open mind about God. “The way I was created proves the existence of a Creator,” she says. “I always asked Him to show me the way.”
Latifa started finding answers when a friend introduced her to a man whom she later discovered was a Christian. “I was shocked,” Latifa remembers, then in her mid-twenties. “To me, there were no Christians in North Africa.” She returned to the Quran to prove him and his mother wrong. “I kept meeting them because I wanted them to become Muslims.”
But Latifa was struck by how they responded to her arguments. “They were different,” she explains. “If I said anything offensive, they wouldn’t react to that. I used to describe Jesus as weak because He accepted being crucified. They would simply respond that His power is perfected in His weakness.”
It all contributed to what was beginning to stir in Latifa’s heart. “I used to go home and read my Bible, then call the mother even in the middle of the night and have a conversation about it. I couldn’t stay away from my Bible. It was breathing life into my soul.”
This continued for six months until, at an Easter service she was invited to, Latifa became a Christian. “The pastor asked if anyone wanted to give their life to Jesus,” she says. “I don’t know how I was able to go to the pastor and pray with him to accept Christ. Even my mother-in-law was surprised. Everyone was, including me.”
After a long period of searching, Latifa had discovered true peace. “I find it hard to describe my feelings then. All I knew was that I was found.”
"Knowing that believers around the world are praying for us makes us proud,” shares Latifa
Latifa’s new-found joy came at a cost – she was rejected by those meant to protect her: her family. Her brother threatened her with death and followed her to church to disrupt services. She was put under house arrest for two weeks before her father issued her an ultimatum: return to Islam or leave home. Latifa refused to deny Jesus and left home.
“My father used to love me unimaginably,” Latifa says. “When he asked me to leave, it was like the end of the world to me.”
Latifa not only faced rejection and homelessness, but shame. In North African culture, a woman only leaves home when she marries. Thankfully, she found shelter with a Christian woman. It was a month before she found work but she still couldn’t attend church, and she even threw out her SIM card so that her family could not locate her. She heard through a friend that her family was determined to hurt her.
The family eventually reached Latifa, by which time attitudes had softened. Relationships were restored and they accepted Latifa’s marriage to the man who first introduced her to Jesus.
However, the persecution resumed when the couple sought to live in the area where her mother grew up. The wider family issued death threats and twice got the couple evicted from their home. They also got the husband fired from his job and had him beaten up, made threats about their daughter, and put pressure on Latifa’s mother. “My mother asked me to never visit her again.” Even now, the family still encounter verbal abuse on the streets and in the shops.
But with your help, Latifa (now 42) and her husband are holding on to Jesus. “My mother linked my humiliation and poverty to my conversion,” she says. “But my husband and I never thought that way. God has never left us. Things could have been worse. A lot of bad things didn’t happen because believers were praying for protection over my family. During that difficult time God has helped me to stay firm through prayers.”
"I survived beatings, persecution, and all Satan’s plans to destroy me" Latifa
It's not just your prayers that have helped Latifa. “You made sure that I was visited by women because I couldn’t go to church,” she says. “You helped me pay my rent. If we didn’t move from there, only God knows what could have happened.” Open Doors also gave financial support whilst Latifa received cancer treatment.
“Thank you for your support,” Latifa adds. “You thought of me without knowing me in person. We’ve never met, but we’re brothers and sisters and belong to the same body. Knowing that believers around the world are praying for us makes us proud.”
Although she has experienced much suffering, Latifa feels blessed by God – and your prayers and support are among these blessings. “Why would I renounce God when He blessed me so much?” she asks. “God stood by me when I was seriously sick twice. Thanks to Him, I survived beatings, persecution, and all Satan’s plans to destroy me. Despite everything, I am so blessed by God.”
*name changed for security reasons
Latifa says, “My family and I need your spiritual support.” You can help provide this by writing her a message of encouragement.
Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus.
Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.